The Best VR Headsets and Games to Explore the Metaverse

Virtual reality was supposed to be the next big thing back in 2016 when the original Oculus Rift and HTC Vive launched. It was the tech whose time had finally arrived. Or so we thought. As it turned out, VR was still a little too expensive and perhaps too alienating to take over the gaming world. But now that everyone is talking about the metaverse, there’s a spotlight on the VR scene. There are new apps and games, new hardware, and even new use cases. 

Our top pick, the Meta Quest 2 (née Oculus), is now just as useful as a work device as it is for recreation. But things are still a bit up in the air as Meta has announced a price hike for the Quest 2, an unprecedented move that doesn’t speak well of its confidence in the platform. Regardless, it’s an interesting time to be getting into VR. 

Updated August 2022: We’ve added guidance on the Meta Quest 2 and the state of VR. 

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Tethered or Wireless VR?

Before we dive deep, there’s one question you need to answer: Do you want a tethered or wireless headset? Tethered VR gives you more graphical detail because you’re hooked up to a PC. The disadvantage is that you’re, well, hooked up to a PC. There’s no getting around the fact that cables are awkward to deal with, especially when you can’t see them. You’ll likely trip on them at some point too. But if you’re looking for absolutely top-of-the-line graphics, and you already shelled out for a great gaming PC or laptop, then you’ll want to go tethered.

For most people, myself included, wirefree VR is a much better option. It’s more comfortable, you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in your own cables, and it’s totally portable. You can bring this kind of VR headset to any room in the house without having to lug around a PC. Plus, in the case of the Meta Quest 2, you can plug it into a PC if you want the extra graphical horsepower. Below, we feature both kinds of headsets. Take a look.

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  • Photograph: Meta

    Best Overall (With a Big Caveat)

    Meta (Oculus) Quest 2

    The Meta Quest 2—the successor to the Oculus Quest, originally called the Oculus Quest 2—delivers great resolution in a lightweight body. It was built to be completely wirefree, but you can plug it into a powerful gaming rig with a single USB-C cable and experience the kind of ultrahigh-definition VR you can only get from dedicated PC hardware. It’s also great for work. With Horizon Workrooms, you can set up your own little space away from the office and even invite coworkers to hang out and collaborate. It has the best-in-class app store, full of games and apps purpose-built for the Quest 2. 

    Unfortunately, the Meta Quest 2 has gotten a price hike, which is concerning. I’ve never seen a game console or device go up in price after being on the market for a few years–unless it comes with some kind of upgrade, like the Nintendo Switch OLED. It’s troubling and doesn’t speak well of Meta’s confidence in the platform. There are other drawbacks too. Namely, the company behind it all is Meta (aka Facebook). You might not like that, given Facebook’s less-than-stellar history of managing user data (not to mention how that data is used). If you’re in the market for a VR headset, the Meta Quest 2 is still our top pick. Just try not to buy too many things from the Meta Store; stick to purchases on a more stable marketplace, like Steam (which supports the Quest 2). 

    On the plus side, you no longer need a Facebook account to sign into the Meta ecosystem. Sort of like on Instagram, you’ll be able to sign in with a Meta account that is completely separate from the Facebook social network. This is the account you’ll use for purchasing games and managing your library. For social aspects that were once paired with Facebook, you can create—alongside your Meta account—a Meta Horizons account. This is the one you’ll use to connect with friends and share content on Facebook and Instagram. This is good news, but I’d still advise caution. The data is all going to the same place, so if you have hangups about Facebook, it might be a good idea to skip the Horizons side of things.

    Supports room-scale VR, can operate with or without a PC, and comes with two controllers.

  • Photograph: Vive

    Best for Casual VR

    HTC Vive Flow

    The Vive Flow is an interesting VR headset, in part because it’s not really a VR headset. It’s more like a pair of giant, super-thick VR glasses you can slip on to meditate in a virtual space, watch a movie or show, or socialize with friends or colleagues virtually. It’s nice for short and casual jaunts into VR. You’ll need a 10,000-mAh battery pack and a USB-C cable to power it, but it supports inside-out tracking, so there’s no need for any external sensors. It’s not as powerful as the Quest 2, so high-fidelity experiences are off the table for the moment, and it’s controlled via your Android smartphone—if you have an iPhone, you’re out of luck. You can check if your smartphone is supported here. It works with a limited number of apps on HTC’s Viveport store. 

    It helps that it’s super lightweight and portable enough to throw into a carry-on and use to watch movies on a flight. The design is by far my favorite out of any VR headset—it’s comfy to wear, you don’t have to mess with any head straps, and you can put it on even with your hair up in a bun or a ponytail. If you don’t care about beating your friend’s high score in Beat Saber, you’ll still feel plenty immersed with this pair of comfy VR goggles.

    Room-scale, inside-out tracking, tethered to a battery pack.

  • Photograph: Vive

    Best for Virtual Work

    HTC Vive Focus 3

    The Vive Focus 3 is first and foremost designed for business use. It’s important to say that because it costs a whopping $1,300. It uses inside-out tracking like the Quest, so you don’t need to set up external sensors or anything. It’s well built and feels comfy on the head, though it’s quite bulky compared to the Quest, likely to accommodate the bigger battery that allows for 12 to 15 hours of continuous use. You can even swap the batteries out when they die.

    However—and this is a big however—it’s not for gaming. Not really. You can use it for gaming, with a link cable and SteamVR, but it doesn’t simultaneously charge, so it’s still relying on the battery. I wasn’t able to get games to render at the Focus 3’s full 5K resolution. This is mostly for commercial and business VR applications—conference rooms, presentations, previewing 3D models in real space, that kind of thing. We included it in this list because it is a really good headset. It’s great at all the things it sets out to do. If you need a headset for 3D or AR work, this is the one.

    Supports room-scale VR, can operate with or without a PC, and comes with two controllers.